February 14, 2013

April Loves Eddie

     Well, it's Valentine's Day. The day of love for many, loneliness and cruelty for others.

     I have my own story of unrequited love. It's a sad tale. And it started in the third grade.

     It was February and we were getting ready for our annual Valentine's Day party. I was sure to get lots of Valentines because the boys had voted several weeks before, and had chosen me as the girl they would mutually like. To show their sincerity they had been writing me letters, singing me songs, and chasing me around the monkey bars. They had even flipped their eyelids at me.

     Though I secretly enjoyed their attention, I'd walk by them, nose in the air. I had only one love, the leader of their pack: Eddie (Last name unremembered).  He had fabulous hair and a really cool binder with a picture of Han Solo on it. He had also professed his love to me during a violent game of dodge ball.

     But I couldn't bring myself to say it back. So I played it cool instead.

     As Valentine's Day drew nearer, and my need to play kiss and catch with Eddie exclusively controlled my every thought,  I came up with a plan.  "You need to buy me two sets of Valentine's cards," I said to my mother.  "We have a very big class this year."

     It was a lie of course, but I couldn't tell my mother the truth: that one of those sets of cards- the entire Tweety Bird collection - was going to Eddie (Last name unremembered).

     I spent the evening before our class party adding personal messages to all 32 cards, convinced that when he read "I like your hair" and "Your dad looks a little bit like Mr. Rogers," he would sweep me off my feet and we'd spend every lunch recess thereafter playing dodge ball together.

     It was a solid plan.  After all, he loved me. I just had to let him know I reciprocated the feeling.

     The morning of Valentine's Day our classroom was filled with excited chatter. We waited anxiously for Miss Wilson to announce that it was time to deliver our cards into the red, construction paper envelopes we had glued together the day before. Finally, we were called, alphabetically by first name, to the front of the class. I was first to contribute. With sweaty hands and a beating heart I made my way forward. The class leaned in to watch. Would I have Snoopy or Star Wars cards? Would there be candy in them? As the first card deliverer, I was setting the bar.

     Drop. Drop. Drop.

     I put each card into its corresponding envelop. A few of my classmates slumped back when they saw that there were no lollipops taped to them.  A few others looked relieved to see that my parents were as cheap as theirs.

     Drop. Drop. Drop.

     At last I came to Eddie's pocket. It was red and beautifully decorated with stick figure drawings of Indians and dinosaurs. I ran my hand discreetly across it before dumping 32 cards inside.

     A collective gasp rang through the class. An entire box of Valentine's cards going into just one envelop? No one had ever dared such a feat. Maybe I would be hailed a hero.

     My dreams were short lived, however, as the students broke out into that most horrible childhood chant: April and Eddie sitting in a tree. I turned as red as Eddie's envelop, delivered the remaining cards to the undeserving pockets of the other students, and raced to my seat.

     As I passed by Eddie's desk I offered him a shy smile. He turned his head away.

     I slid into my seat as the chanting continued. Eddie wouldn't look at me.  I had brought disgrace to the  third grade alpha male. And I was being shunned.

     At lunch recess Eddie (Last name Jerkface) sat on the grass surrounded by his cronies. The girls let me know that he was reading each of my cards - complete with special handwritten messages - out loud to his friends. I could see them through the cafeteria window as I nibbled on my sandwich. With each card he read the boys doubled over in laughter. I never left the lunchroom.

     By the end of the day the boys voted in a new girl to like: Audra (Last name Bitch). They threw rocks at her, chased her around the monkey bars, and even flipped their eyelids at. her. She squealed appropriately at each gesture and didn't snub a one of them.

     For the remainder of the school year she was Queen and I was forever known as 'that girl that won't stop following Eddie' (Last name go-f-yourself) around.

     I moved away the following year but I kept track of Eddie through friends. After high school he married twice, had seven kids, and made a career of selling farm supplies.I hear he does okay for himself.

     Love is a strange and wonderful thing and I'm not sure why we chase it. But we do. Even when we are young. And the trials and tribulations of keeping love, once found, continue through the rest of our lives.

     If you're not careful, in the time it takes to dump 32 cards into a construction paper envelop, it can be gone.

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